TOEFL Preparation: Lesson 26 - A Reasonable Doubt

Target Words 1. accuse

2. allegedly

3. civil 4. convict

5. guilty 6. offense

7. peer 8. suspect

9. verdict 10. witness

Definitions and Samples

1. accuse v. To say that someone did something wrong (e.g., committed a crime) Jordan was accused of using a stolen credit card to buy about $300 worth of electronic equipment. Usage tips Accuse is often used in the passive voice.

Parts of speech accusation n, accuser n

2. allegedly adv. According to what people say The chief financial officer of the company allegedly took company money for his personal use. Parts of speech allege v, allegation n

3. civil adj. Involving a dispute between two citizens, not a criminal charge

In a civil suit against his neighbor, Barney claimed that the neighbor’s dog had bitten him. Usage tips In a court context, civil almost always appears in one of the following phrases: civil suit, civil action, civil court, civil proceedings, and civil penalties.

4. convict v. To decide that someone is guilty of a crime Dean was convicted of assault after the jury saw a video of him striking another man. Usage tips Convict is often used in the passive voice.

Parts of speech convict n, conviction n


5. guilty adj. Responsible for doing something bad The jury found that the director was guilty of embezzlement. Usage tips Guilty is often followed by an of phrase that names a crime or bad deed. Parts of speech guilt n, guiltily adv


6. offense n. A specific act that breaks the law

Convicted twice for reckless driving, Victor will lose his license if he commits another serious traffic offense. Parts of speech offender n, offensive adj


7. peer n. A person who is one’s social equal In requiring judgment by “a jury of one’s peers,” U.S. law is meant to protect lower-class defendants from the possibly biased judgment of upper-class juries.

8. suspect n. Someone who, in the opinion of the police, might have committed a certain crime The police were investigating the activities of five suspects in the liquor store robbery. Parts of speech suspect v, suspicion n, suspicious adj, suspiciously adv 9. verdict n. A judgment in a court case It took the jury only 30 minutes to reach a verdict of “guilty.” Usage tips Verdict is often the object of the verbs reach or arrive at.

10. witness v. To see something, especially a crime, happen

After witnessing the car theft, Rodney called the police. Parts of speech witness n


TOEFL Prep I

Find the word or phrase that is closest in meaning to each word in the left-hand column.

1. accuse (a) to determine that someone is guilty 2. convict (b) responsible for a crime

3. civil (c) a social equal 4. guilty (d) being related to a personal dispute, not a crime 5. peer (e) to say someone did a bad thing


TOEFL Prep II Circle the word that best completes each sentence.

  1. The most likely (suspect/witness) in the murder was the victim’s brother, but no one actually saw the crime.

  2. The new president (allegedly/guiltily) had his main opponents killed, but he denies it.

  3. At one time in the United States, possession of marijuana was a minor (verdict/offense).

  4. The (witness/peer) made a poor impression on the jury because he couldn’t remember many details about the crime scene.

  5. Juries are instructed to arrive at a unanimous (verdict/convict), one agreeable to all members of the jury.

TOEFL Success

Read the passage to review the vocabulary you have learned. Answer the questions that follow.

One of the most controversial murder cases of the twentieth century was that involving the death of Marilyn Sheppard in 1954. Her husband, Dr. Sam Sheppard, was accused of killing her and then injuring himself. An unlikely suspect, Sheppard was highly respected by his peers in the medical world.

Still, there were odd aspects to the murder that Sheppard could not explain away. Unfortunately for Sheppard, none of his supporters actually witnessed the crime, so nobody could back up Sheppard’s claim that the real killer was a bushy-haired man whom Sheppard had chased across his lawn and fought with briefly. Sheppard was eventually convicted of the offense, but many people doubted the verdict.

With aggressive help from a lawyer named F. Lee Bailey, Sheppard got a new trial.

Bailey suggested many alternatives to Sheppard’s guilt, enough that the new jury could not say he was guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

Sheppard was released from prison but died soon afterward. His son, Chip, pursued the case through several civil and criminal proceedings in an attempt to find out the truth about his mother’s murder. Late in the 1990s, new DNA analysis techniques proved that someone other than Sam Sheppard and his family had been in the house that night. Sheppard’s story about the bushy-haired man had probably been accurate all along. Bonus Structure—

The clause containing but and doubt signals that arguments against the verdict will be given.


1. Why was the Sheppard case unusual?

a. A husband was accused of murdering his wife. b. The murder occurred in 1954. c. Doubt about the guilty verdict led to a second trial.

d. The accused murderer said he didn’t do it.

2. The author of this article implies that Sam Sheppard __________

a. did not kill his wife b. lied about the bushy-haired man c. did not love his wife d. married again after he got out of prison

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